Military Skills that Aid Innovation | USAA Member Community

Innovation is one of the most difficult processes to do consistently inside of any business or organization.  Creativity is the ability to build and fashion new ideas that can solve problems.  Innovation is taking the idea and building a solution that solves a problem.  An idea can be creative but not solve the problem.  An innovation must be creative and solve the problem.  Therefore, innovation has a greater impact than creativity because innovation cannot exist only in the world of ideas.  True innovation must see, address, and solve critical problems and challenges to an organization.


Military Skills That Aid Innovation #1 – Commander’s Intent.  The first military skill set that aids innovation is the use of Commander’s Intent.  Commander’s Intent is the bedrock of the military planning process that provides the description and vision of what success looks like and how to know when success is achieved.  In a brief phrase, Commander’s Intent is how an organization knows is has been successful.  In innovation, having an overarching vision and description of success is critical because as ideas, resources, competitors, and customer needs shift then knowing all along what success looks like adds a dimension of certainty to the innovation process.


Military Skills That Aid Innovation #2 – A Global Vision That Appreciates Difference.  Military veterans also bring a global appreciation of experience and a global appreciation that differences create strength and creativity.  When you bring military veterans together, they are used to working in diverse teams, integrating examples they have seen used successfully across the globe, and are more than willing to use input and ideas with team members that have 3 decades or 3 months of experience.  An appreciation of how differences lead to innovation is a critical military skill set for innovation.


Military Skills That Aid Innovation #3 – Simultaneous Team Leader & Team Follower.  Does an innovation process need leaders or team members?  The answer is yes.  On great teams that foster innovation, a team member must be able to perform as both a leader and as a follower.  The ability to know when to jump in front to lead, gather information, and take the initiative is just as important to know when to support the current leader, help the leader succeed, and help the leader be successful.  A vast majority of people think of themselves as either a leader or a follower.  Military veterans know how to be both and the ability to jump back and forth between leader and follower makes a military veteran on an innovation team a dual asset because they can contribute 100% in either capacity.


Military Skills That Aid Innovation #4 – The Ability to Perform Iterative Improvements.  Innovation for any type of improvement in any industry requires constant testing, improving, followed by re-testing.  This ability to perform, test, and improve is a critical aspect of the innovation mindset and one that military veterans excel.  Military veterans excel at this process because the use of perfecting individual drill is a critical aspect of military excellence.  The setting up of a machine gun by a weapon’s team quickly and under all weather conditions is a key aspect of success.  Military convoy teams constantly rehearse and re-rehearse how to react to an enemy attack, treat an injured team member, or recover a stuck vehicle.  The ability to know how to practice, improve, and practice again that military veterans know at a base level is critical to innovation success.


Military Skills That Aid Innovation #5 – The After Action Review.  The US Army uses the After Action Review (AAR) and the Navy and Air Force use the Debrief process.  The purpose for both the AAR and the Debrief process is to help an organization and individuals understand what happened, what worked, what did not work & why, and what is the plan to improve the deficient areas.  In the military, the AAR process is used daily and it is used in the same manner from unit’s sized 3-5 people to units consisting of thousands of people.  One of the most valuable areas for the AAR is that a well-run AAR creates engagement by participants because it asks and listens to feedback from ALL team members regardless of rank, position, or experience.


Using military skill sets in the Innovation Process finds a way to engage employees, paints the vision of success, gives a process to improve, and creates a discipline to proactively to find continued innovation.  Military skill sets provide the Innovation process key building blocks to be successful. 

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About the blogger:
Chad is the author of two books: (1) Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and (2) Battlefield to Business Success. Chad’s brand message is that organizations & individuals need to translate and apply military skills to business because they immediately produce results and are cost effective. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab.  Chad is an adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University in Omaha, NE. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in over 110 different articles in over 85 separate publications including The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.